Justin’s recent post at Mormon Wasp describes the latest Jack Chick anti-Mormon comic book, The Enchanter. Chick’s comic contains a picture of Joseph Smith, dressed in full Nauvoo Legion attire, saying: “If the people let us alone, we will preach the gospel in peace. But if they come on us to molest us, we will establish our religion with the sword. We will trample down our enemies and make it one gore of blood…from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. I will be to this generation a 2nd Muhammad, whose motto in treating for peace was ‘the Al-Qur’an or the sword.’ So shall it be with us — ‘Joseph Smith or the sword!’ (See History of the Church, Vol. 3, p. 167).” This quote was also included in the recent movie September Dawn, in a scene depicting the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor in 1844.
The funny thing about Chick’s comic and September Dawn is that they depict Smith saying this quote in Illinois. Historical sources attribute this statement to Smith not in Illinois, but in Missouri in 1838, when mob violence was escalating. The quote is taken from Thomas B. Marsh’s October 24, 1838 affidavit, which describes a speech given by Smith the previous summer. Marsh’s statement is corroborated by three other individuals, George M. Hinkle, John Corrill, George Walter, and partially by a fourth, Abner Scovil. Walter and Scovil place the speech in June 1838, soon after the expulsion of Mormon dissenters from Far West. As an entry in Smith’s journal entry suggests, “some excitement was raised in the adjoining Counties, that is Ray & Clay, against us, in consequence of the suden departure of these wicked character[s], of the apostates from this Church, into that vicinity reporting false stories, and statements, but when they [the Missourians] come to hear the other side of the question their feeling[s] were all allayed upon that subject especially.”
We will never know with certainty if Smith made this statement or not. To my knowledge, Marsh, Hinkle, Corrill, Walter, and Scovil were the only individuals that recorded the quote, and the first three had left the Church prior to making their statements (I’m not sure about either Walter or Scovil). It should be remembered that in the summer and fall of 1838, Joseph Smith was under increasing pressure to defend his people from mob encroachments. There was considerable fear that the dissenters (led by Oliver Cowdery and the Whitmers) would raise a mob and drive out the Mormons. After being driven from Jackson County in 1834, Mormon leaders declared in 1838 that they would not be driven again, and therefore advocated violent counter-measures. Given this context, it is possible that Smith made some kind of reference to violent resistance and may have compared himself to the Muslim prophet. But there is no evidence that Smith had similar sentiments in Nauvoo, and for that reason it is unfortunate that Chick and September Dawn chose to conflate the alleged Missouri statement with the Nauvoo setting, as though to suggest that Smith was by nature a dangerous fanatic that advocated throughout his life militarily taking over the world. That simply was not the case.
Thomas B. Marsh
I have heard the prophet say that he should yet tread down his enemies, and walk over their dead bodies; that if he was not let alone he would be a second Mahomet to this generation, and that he would make it one gore of blood from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean; that like Mahomet, whose motto, in treating for peace, was” the Alcoran or the Sword,” so should it be eventually with us, “Joseph Smith or the Sword.” These last statements were made during the last summer. 
George M. Hinkle
I have heard Joseph Smith, jr. say that he believed Mahomet was a good man; that the Koran was not a true thing, but the world belied Mohamet, as they had belied him, and that Mahomet was a true prophet. 
In the last, or in some public meeting, Joseph Smith, jr., said: if the people would let us alone, we would preach the gospel to them in peace; but, if they came on us to molest us, we would establish our religion by the sword; and that he would become to this generation a second Mahomet. 
Soon after the dissenters were driven away from Caldwell county, I was in Far-West, in Corill’s [Corrill’s] store, perhaps the last of June last, and heard Joseph Smith, jun., say, that he believed Mahomet was an inspired man, and had done a great deal of good, and that he intended to take the same course Mahomet did; that if the people would let him alone, he would, after a while, die a natural death; but if they did not, he would make it one gore of blood from the Rocky Mountains to the State of Maine. He further said, that he had, or would have, (the witness does not-remember which,) as regular an inquisition as ever was established, and as good a set of inquisitors as ever was. This conversation was had when talking about the dissenters. 
In the latter part of June last, I heard Joseph Smith, jun., say, that if the people would let him alone, he would conquer them by the sword of the spirit; but if they would not, he would beat the plough-shares into swords, and their pruning-hooks into spears, and conquer them he would. 
 JS, Journal, [July 1838], in Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith, vol. 2, Journal, 1832-1842 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1992), 255-56.
 Affidavit of Thomas B. Marsh, Richmond, Missouri, October 24, 1838, Document Containing the Correspondence, Orders, &C. in Relation to the Disturbances with the Mormons; and the Evidence Given Before the Hon. Austin A. King, Judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit of the State of Missouri, at the Court-House in Richmond, in a Criminal Court of Inquiry, Begun November 12, 1838, on the Trial of Joseph Smith, Jr., and Others for High Treason and Other Crimes Against the State (Fayette, Missouri: Boon’s Lick Democrat, 1841), 58-59. Matt W. points out that in the footnote of HC 3:167-68, Roberts inserted a John Taylor sermon, given apparently in the late 1870s, in which Taylor denied the contents of Marsh’s affidavit. Aside from the fact that this sermon was given forty years after the alleged statement was made in 1838, it should also be noted that the only thing that Taylor specifically repudiates in Marsh’s affidavit is his statement on the Danites. The question of whether or not Danites existed, however, has long been settled and even completely orthodox Mormon scholars do not dispute this (See Baugh, “A Call to Arms,” 36-43). The question of why Taylor would deny that the Danites existed, when it’s clear that they did, is unfortunately too complex to address here.
 Testimony of George M. Hinkle, Document, 128.
 Testimony of John Corrill, Document, 111.
 Testimony of George Walter, in James H. Hunt, Mormonism: Embracing the Origin, Rise and Progress of the Sect, with an Examination of the Book of Mormon; Also, Their Troubles in Missouri, and Final expulsion from the State; With and Appendix, giving an Account of the Late Disturbances in Illinois, Which Resulted in the Death of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, by G. W. Westbrook. (St. Louis, IL: Ustick & Davies, 1844), 217. Hat tip to Justin for pointing this account out to me. Like Hinkle and Corrill, Walter was witness for the state of Missouri at the November 1838 hearing where JS was tried for treason. For unknown reasons, Walter’s testimony was not included in the 1841 printed compilation of evidence and documents (see note #1), but was printed with in Hunt’s 1844 history. The manuscript hearing record containing all the testimony is located in the archives at the University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri.
 Testimony of Abner Scovil, in Hunt, Mormonism, 227. Like Walter’s testimony, Scovil’s was also ommitted from the 1841 printing but was included in Hunt’s history.